Monday, October 31, 2005

Change is coming...


Haiden shows off her cookie scooping prowess...

Slept in yesterday and had a very nice morning, getting up close to 7am (thanks kids) and going out to breakfast together. I was pretty sore from the race, especially after running another easy 4 in the evening with Haiden in the jogging stroller. My right abductor is acting up a little, but it didn't bother me today.

I did my run yesterday while the kids napped, the first time I've waited until the afternoon to run in months, but I liked having a little extra time to recover before jumping into the last hill session of the week. Yes, I did race the day before, but I've been feeling good about the schedule I've kept and I was full of eggs and cheese so off I went.

Today is Halloween, the first Haiden will be celebrating "trick-or-treat" style (maybe 5 or 6 of the neighbors we know and some family), and today's run was a nice, easy 8 miles. This is the start of week 4 of 4 for my Lydiard hill phase, then it's on to the 4 weeks of anaerobic training. It's a time of uncertainty, mostly because starting next week I'll be veering a little more off the schedules as written in Arthur Lydiard's "Running to the Top". I've mentioned a few times my trepidations about the upcoming 4 weeks, mostly because Lydiard's schedules in his later books (like mine) de-emphasize longer "marathon-pace" type time trials in favor of mostly shorter, faster efforts. My book has only one time trial over 10,000 meters, which is a 35K time-trial 4 weeks out from the race. Nobby Hashizume has commented on on interpreting this phase according to a runner's specific needs in a few different letsrun.com threads, and coach Glenn McCarthy and coach/masters athlete Mark Coughlin have offered some good advice and plans as well.

What keeps going through my mind is a familiar "Lydiardism", "Everything is important." Yes, a marathon is primarily an aerobic effort and no, there's usually no sprinting involved (unless you're diving for the line in a Boston qualifying panic). But you need the whole car to get to the destination. To take the auto analogy further, it's not an assembly line approach where everything is being added and bolted on at one time. Instead you start with the engine (improving aerobic conditioning and capacity), build the transmission (hill training for strength, overall and for up and down terrain), then add the fast wheels and aerodynamic body (anaerobic training for lactate tolerance and overall speed and turnover). Then comes the fine tuning where you test to get all the parts to work together and make adjustments according to what is and isn't working (coordination training). Finally, all you have to do is turn the key and pay attention.

Oh, if it were only that easy! I felt some of what I hope to improve on in the anaerobic phase when I raced on Saturday. I was running right about at my lactate threshold, and at that effort I really had to try to run smoothly and evenly to maximize my speed, especially in the closing miles. It takes concentration to run fast, and I think running fast can teach the body to run more efficiently, both biomechanically and metabolically. These must be good things to learn for the marathon, I just hope I can find the right "dosage" of speed to bring the results without dragging my endurance down. Hopefully with Lydiard's plan and some good advice I will manage. Please be safe tonight everyone.

Training: 8 miles, 57:26, 7:11 pace
10/30, 10 miles, 1:25:01, 8:30 pace, 4 hill circuits, 3 minute efforts up, 3 x 160 easy striders each circuit

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Finally! The orange hi-liter

I have a bound day-calendar I use for a log, as many runners do. I mostly record the standard fare, similar to what you see in my online log. I enter miles, time, pace, what time I did the run, and usually something about the workout or how I was feeling. At the end of the week I total the miles, track the mileage on my shoes, and that's usually about it.

Race days are the only exception to this rather pedestrian task. Race days I break out the fabulous orange hi-lighter and trace a box around the days event. This makes it easy to go back and look at past race performances for clues on pace and other race notes. Today was one of those days, so I dutifully filled in the numbers. Then I go to the back page of the log and enter the date and the numbers for the race in my special "race" section.

This 10 mile race was a different course than last year's race, where I P.R.'d with a 57:43, but I know the race director well and he does a great job measuring so I call it accurate (though I think mile 7 was short, but a long mile 8 made up for it). Glenn McCarthy's advice of starting slow was fresh in my mind at the start. He mentioned that during the hill phase the legs are asked to do a lot, and that if I got too far into the red too soon it could be a very long day on the course. With that in mind, plus observing the 4-5 Kenyans and a few other unknown but very fast-looking runners on the line, I decided to let the first pack take it out, and settled in just behind them, pretty much the first goose in the inverted "V" formation.

My last 10 mile race was run at 5:45 pace, and my plan was to go out at 5:40 or so and try to run very steady, picking it up at the end if the legs would tolerate it. I came to mile 1 at 5:37, which was a relief since I usually go out way too fast. Soon a familiar masters runner came alongside me, and two good runners I knew fell in behind to make us a fairly venerable foursome. The route was out of the wind and away from the sun, so I had no problem taking the pace with the other masters runner (who is 52 by the way and regularly runs 120 mile weeks!). The two of us run very well together, even though I'm about 8 inches taller than him. Three more miles ticked by, 5:37, 5:39, 5:39. This was the pace, the breathing was good. One of the runners behind finally blows up, but we press on-5:38, 5:38. Finally, the masters runner fades off the pace, leaving only two of us (the other runner is the same one I ran the tempo run with a few weeks back). 5:21, 5:43 (think the marker between these two were off, and we're still rolling along. With two to go, the other runner starts to falter and falls 4 steps behind. I'd talked to this runner after our tempo run, and learned he completed this race last year in over an hour. He was set to take almost 4 minutes off his time, and he seems like a great guy. I had been talking to our group for much of the run, just the usual "we're doing great/they're coming back to us/nice and relaxed" and the like, but for some reason I turned around here and said something to the effect of "This is it, the perfect race, even splits for 10 miles! Get back up here and lets finish it off!" He seemed a little shocked, frankly, but sure enough he picked it up, said "thanks", and was soon beside me again. It's 2 to go, we roll a 5:36, and we're down to the final mile. My legs are really starting to feel it, but now my partner looks great! In the last 200 he opens up a sprint, and I can't hold him. We do the last mile in 5:36 for a 56:09, which gives me 16th overall and 5th in my age group with a 5:37 average pace. Last year my 57:43 was good for 5th overall, and the winning time was 56:10!

John, the other runner, had the run of his life and I was glad to be a part of it. This was probably one of my best races too, and while I'm a pretty fierce competitor, getting out-sprinted isn't the end of the world.

What's really rewarding is comparing this week to the same week last year, when I ran 57 miles instead of the 96 I'm doing this time around. Last year this race was supposed to be a benchmark to set me up for a marathon in January I never made it to. I ended up inadvertently peaking for this race, and I just couldn't maintain any upward momentum to get me to January. I feel most of the problem was joining a workout group last fall that immediately jumped into tempo (which always turned into faster VO2 max sessions) and intervals in early September. After about 9 weeks of this training without a sufficient aerobic base I was quite simply pooped. I never even made it to the Thanksgiving turkey trot. I woke up that morning and instead of heading to the park, I simply said "I'm done". The miles dipped in November from 60 down to 17 or so per week.

So last year at this race I was at my peak, where this year I am still really towards the bottom of the ladder, and I still managed to run 1:34 faster. Also, the breathing was definitely easier, something Mark Coughlin had mentioned he experienced while racing in his hill phase. This result makes trusting the Lydiard Method easy. I feel that I still have so many gains to make with the training, after all I'm only 15 weeks in to the program and I still have 11 weeks to go. I'm really excited about finally moving into the faster training, where I'm hoping I will see some more improvement. Thanks again to Nobby, Glenn and Mark for the sound advice, I'm hoping I'm starting to get it. Have a good weekend, here's a link to the results if anyone is interested. Tucson is turning into a fast town. Here's a link to a photo of me and my new running buddy and competition John (I'm on the right).

Training: a.m. 12 miles with a 10 mile race. Finished in 56:09, 16th overall, 5th in my age group
p.m. 4 miles easy shakeout with Haiden in the jog-stroller, right abductor a little sore.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Boy, you're gonna carry that weight

A late start for everyone this morning, as no one in the house stirred until 6:45. Last night Kiera got a haircut late, so I was up until almost 10 catching up on TIVO'd "The Office" and "The Daily Show". We don't watch TV when the kids are awake, so programs tend to stack up. Anyway, after pouring Haiden some cereal and eating my english muffin I got dressed to head out. This was my easy day, as planned for the day before tomorrow's race, and of course Haiden wanted to come along. This means Haiden, green bunny, pink blanket, and portable toilet seat (potty training) all come with in the jogging stroller, and thus begins another muffin run. Eight miles is about Haiden's limit, which is where we kept it, and we were so late in starting that we got the last chocolate muffin at Basha's market with a little less than two miles to go. As expected, Halloween was the discussion topic, and apparently green bunny is going to be dressing up as a cat too, just like Haiden.

I've mentioned the muffin is gigantic, Haiden has a quarter, I have the same, then we bring half home. Today I was getting a bit hungry and contemplated eating the other half, when I remembered another nice surprise from earlier in the morning, when I weighed myself and was down another two pounds. This makes an even ten pounds lost since starting with my Lydiard training, without any sort of regimented diet except for general guidelines like cutting out beer and soda (maybe a soda a week if we're out eating), cutting fried foods, and trying to increase fruits and vegetables while sticking to whole grains. Celebrating this loss by gulping down the rest of the muffin with my daughter watching seemed not to be the thing to do, so we wrapped it up and took it home as usual.

Thankfully, Lydiard doesn't focus on weight much in "Running to the Top", since it is such an individual issue, but he does give several nutritional guidelines. Weight is obviously a difficult and sticky topic, especially for athletes. One article I read recently declared the "ideal" weight for runners as two pounds per inch of height, which seems pretty extreme to me. That would mean 148 pounds for me at 6'2". I'm now twenty pounds over that, and I'd consider myself on the "thinner" side of fit. Yes, less weight is easier to move, but not if you don't have the strength to move it.

Lydiard training is about doing the work, and athletes need fuel to get the work done. Part one is finding the maximum amount of mileage you can tolerate, be it 100 miles or 50, then slowly increasing the speeds of those runs. This kind of training, at least for me, burned off some pounds that could certainly stand to go (some fat and some cycling-specific muscles that just aren't used as much running). Your results may vary, but I think it's safe to say you won't gain weight running the Lydiard way, especially if you take it easy on the 2 pound chocolate muffins.

Training: 8 miles, 1:01:43, 7:43 pace with Haiden in the jog-stroller. A little faster than I would have liked with the race tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More hill phase benefits and some inspiration

Coach Glenn McCarthy from Boulder, who I've mentioned before, shared some good insights about the benefits of hill work I thought some might find interesting. Previously he had mentioned keeping the "work" on the uphill to three minutes, which I started doing, but then I continue on to the top of the hill (which takes another 2 minutes) before heading down. During these last two minutes I try to relax and use the slow-twitch muscles, while trying to straighten out my take-off leg to gain force and stride with each step (see my get out of the bucket post for more on this). This past week something else in Glenn's email came to mind, specifically when he commented that "the new strength gained by the hill work allows the knees to raise higher. The foot pulls through closer to the gluteus. Overall efficiency is enhanced."

I started thinking about this in terms of physics and it makes sense. By raising your knee higher, you bend your leg more, and you are in effect shortening the lever of your leg, which means you can bring your front leg through your stride quickly and with less resistance. Think about taking a low "frankenstein" step where you don't bend your knee, then compare it to a higher step with exaggerated knee-lift. The latter is easily more efficient. This is of course what Glenn was saying, but it took a few days for it to sink in. So today I really tried to focus on keeping my knee-lift up even after the interval, and I hope to remember to do the same during the race on Saturday. Thanks again, Glenn.

I also just got some more motivational material in the mail, specifically, Ron Daws' book "Running Your Best". This was at Zeke's suggestion, and I certainly appreciate it. I'm only on the first chapter, but his writing in incredibly motivating, much like the article on the right about Lorraine Moller. Here's just a bit from the first chapter-

"Making a commitment to run comes down to how badly you want to explore your limits. It means honestly confronting your excuses. It means making time to train. Unless you go all out for something, you may conclude your life without actually having lived it. It doesn't have to be running, but it should be a quest for excellence...That's how your find out what you are made of. That's how you find out who you are. To live your life your way, to reach for the goals you have set for yourself, to be the you that you want to be, that is success."

He writes that as athletes and individuals, we as a species inherently sell ourselves short and seldom reach our potential, but that potential exists. I used to run with a fellow (who coached me in my triathlon days), and we were very close to the same level. We were trying to break 3 hours in a marathon, and our 10K times were in the mid-37's. I remember discussing 100 mile weeks (we were lucky to go 50 back then), and we figured that it would really be something to do that...once. I also remember seeing an article titled Sub 35 by 35, which had a plan to (you guessed it) get your 10K time under 35 minutes by the time you reached 35 years of age. I laughed at the article, and I dismissed even one 100 mile week as fantasy.

Well, here I am three or four years later, I've managed to meet that 100 mile barrier regularly, I'm shooting for a January marathon at 2:40, and last month I finally won my first race, a 10K, with a time under what the article promised to teach (even though the course was short, I still feel my 32:58 as validation). I give Arthur Lydiard and his methods credit, but I also feel credit is due to Nobby Hashizume, Glenn McCarthy, Mark Coughlin, and others who have been kind enough to share their training wisdom with me. I obviously have a long ways to go, and Ron Daws' words help keep the fire lit to keep reaching for more. I'm 34 now, and as corny as it sounds, I am seriously trying to reach my ultimate potential in this sport while I am in my best years. We'll see how it goes.

Training: 10 miles, 1:24:27, 8:26 pace. 4 hill circuits at 13 minutes each, 3 minute uphill efforts. Felt good today, but I'm ready for an easy day and maybe a muffin run tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Just when I was ready to make excuses...

I have every reason to stink up this 10 mile race on Saturday. I'm three weeks into my hill-phase so I'm pretty dead-legged, I was a little sick this week, the race comes towards the end of a 96 mile week, I'm just using it for "training"-the list goes on and on.

Then along comes Mark, ruining everything. I emailed Mark after reading some of his posts on the Lydiard/Daniels thread on letsrun.com, where he posts as Hotlanta Master. I've been trying to plan my "anaerobic phase", or what will follow my Lydiard hill phase, which will start the week after next. He mentioned the success he's had with running longer, marathon pace and faster time trials.

Turns out Mark is an amazing runner who just finished first in the masters category (and 9th overall) at the Portland Marathon on October 9, and he was the overall winner of the Atlanta marathon in 2002 with a 2:36 race, though I had to dig this up online since he's such a modest chap. He did mention, however, how surprised he was with his finish at the Peachtree 10K, where he ran a 34:13 an placed 6th in the masters division. This is where he ruins things. Mark had just finished ten solid weeks of high-mileage conditioning, and was coming off his first week of his hill-phase. This race was run in over 90% humidity, and he still ran about the same pace he had in years previous, in spite of no taper and a pretty serious workload. He also mentioned that the effort he had to expend seemed fairly moderate given the conditions.

Mark coaches runners for the Atlanta Track Club, and also works with high schoolers, and he train with a Lydiard-based approach. He got hooked on marathon pace runs and "progression runs" early, taking the advice of a coach when he was younger as well as following the words of Weldon Johnson, one of the founders of letsrun.com. Mark mentioned that when he started faithfully following the Lydiard method of building a large aerobic base, then hill training, he started to see his times drop even though he was (in his words) "past his physical prime" (not so sure about this myself).

So while his stellar performance while racing during his hill phase makes my excuses for possibly not being at my best seem feeble, the successes Mark has enjoyed inspire me to hopefully do the same. Athletes like Mark are proof that Lydiard's theories, thoughtfully and intelligently applied, offer concrete results. I'll definitely give it my best shot Saturday, I'll just hope my legs have it in them to get me to the line in a good time.

Training: 18 miles, 2:06:42, 7:02 pace. Felt pretty good overall, didn't look at the watch all day so I thought the pace would be around 7:20 or so. Nice surprise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Have you hugged your toilet today?

About an hour after my post yesterday my stomache started to complain. I ate a turkey sandwich with some veggies and pita chips, even though I didn't really want to, since I'd just ran 22 miles yesterday morning. After putting both the kids down for nap, I decided to go into town to pick up another pair of running shoes. About two miles down the road I started getting the cold, clammy sweats, and it was apparent something was really wrong. Of course, since I have so little time off and I need shoes, I pressed on instead of going home to rest while everyone was sleeping. First mistake.

At the running shop the sales staff was quite amused to see me leaning over on the glass sales counter, trying to keep my stomache at bay. If I threw up there I would never hear the end of it, though they offered their bathroom for the cause. I couldn't let the bathroom I use to change in for the occasional Wednesday night social run become "the bathroom Mike puked in", so I sucked it up and drove home.

Luckily, the kids were still asleep, so I was able to throw up a few times and crawl into bed for a bit. I thought back to the night before, the lovely meal we had out at DUM-DUM-DUMMMM, the Olive Garden. We hadn't been there in 3 years or so, but it was across the street from where we stopped to buy a kite for Haiden (which I promised to do), and I do like the salad and breadsticks. Finn slept the whole time, Haiden was good, and the meal itself wasn't too bad...or so I had thought. Eat local people, I won't be going back to this chain again.

After the kids got up, Kiera offered to take them both out until we had to meet my brother and his family for dinner at their place, but I had promised to take Haiden to fly the kite so we split up, with me and Haiden going to the park. The fresh air actually felt good, but running with the kite in my condition was difficult. We did have fun, and we went on to meet everyone for dinner. There I ate two bites of salad, and I knew that would be it for me.

I took Finn home, leaving Kiera and Haiden to eat and play, put him to bed, and raced back to the porcelain for some serious food-throwing. Then off to bed groaning, so much so that Kiera, after putting Haiden down later, decided to retire on the couch in order to get some peace. Finally, I slept the sleep of the just.

At 5 or so Finn woke, and amazingly enough I was feeling better. I fed him, then caught another hour of sleep before Haiden got up. When she did, I still felt fine. The night before Kiera had said, "Now if you get up tomorrow and drink a cup of coffee and go on your run, I'll be very disappointed in you". Well, she was disappointed, it was a hill day and I felt like it was a test of my commitment to the cause. I did feel a little woozy on the first repeat, and I did have to take a little break in the bushes, but other than feeling very hungry and tired I was fine. I'm thankful it was just a short stomache bug, or possibly a mild case of food-poisoning, and I do feel equal amounts of satisfaction for flying that kite and running those hills when I really probably shouldn't have. I wonder what Lydiard would have done?

Training: 10 miles, 1:25:27, 8:33 pace. 4 hill circuits at about 13 minutes each, 3 minutes uphill effort.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Half-way there

Well, half-way through the hills now, and thank goodness! Don't get me wrong, I am (for the most part) enjoying the workouts, but last week was very tough mentally (see the previous post). I also moved up my long run from Tuesday to today, so it followed a longer hill day yesterday (I will take it easy on the hills tomorrow).

So today's 22 miler was pretty good all-told, though I almost missed doing it after sleeping an hour past my alarm. My wife and daughter have a "Tucson Mom's" playgroup Monday, and luckly it was late enough today that I could still get out at 6:15 and make it back before they left to watch Finn. Speaking of Finn and my last post, many thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts and wishes. We're all feeling better about things after being able to digest the news for a few days, and as anyone with kids knows, it can always be much worse! Today he took a micro-morning nap, so he's in my lap right now (yes this should be a short post).

I'm 14 weeks into my Lydiard program now, and there are 12 more weeks to go. The longest I've ever trained for a marathon previously is 18 weeks, so I'm taking some comfort in the fact that I still have a ways to go (and plenty of time to get faster and more efficient) before the race.

I'm racing a 10 miler on Saturday of this week (which is why I bumped the long run up a day), so this week should be interesting. I was originally going to back off a bit and do a very short taper, but I've decided to keep the volume the same and just train through the event. I emailed Glenn McCarthy about tapering and he was the one to suggest I try to keep the volume the same, and I think he's right. In "Running to the Top" or one of the interviews I read with Arthur, he said the same thing, that "earlier in the season people will be passing you, but you will be ahead of them when it counts, at the end of the season" or something to that effect.

Nobby, who has been of great help to me, reminds me to be careful at this phase, especially with the additional stresses our family is going through. The legs do feel a little tender after two tough days, so I will take his advice to heart.

Training: Sunday, 12 miles, 1:41:09, 8:25 pace. 4 hill circuits plus longer cooldown
Total Miles: 96 in 7 sessions
Monday: 22 miles, 2:31:58, 6:54 pace. Ate two gels, felt pretty good but left iliopsoaz a little sore (maybe from sleeping on my side)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Stress


It's what happens when we're not running that has the greatest effect on how we run. Yeah, I'm talking about balance again, because I'm getting a bit out of whack this week. The first half of this week I was extremely sore. Sadly, it was from scalping, de-thatching, aerating, planting, and topping our lawn. It's probably only 600 square feet or so but it took about four hours to do, and it felt like I had been working a whole soccer field by the end of it.

Take that soreness, add some restless nights, early mornings, unplanned middle-of-the-night feedings, and a difficult week at work, partially caused by the stress of being late two days in a row because of medical appointments for our young son Finn. Finn has been diagnosed with plagiocephaly, which is essentially a flat spot on the back of one side of his head, which makes everything on his head a tad asymmetrical. It's hard to tell at first glance, but one ear is a bit forward and high while the other is a bit back and low, and one eye is higher than the other. It's a strange condition, but it can be treated effectively by putting him in what looks like a helmet, though it's called a cranial band. This re-directs the growth of his head, which in turn kind of evens things up. It isn't just a cosmetic issue, if left untreated it can cause problems with the jaw and mouth, spinal abnormalities, and perceptive and balance problems. He'll have to stay in the helmet 23 hours a day, and it should do the job of straightening everything out in 3 weeks to 8 months time.

As with most medical conditions, this is causing some stress. Bouncing between the family practice doctor, an orhopedic specialist, a physical therapist, and the people who make/fit the helmet is very difficult, and while each provides us with lots of information, much of it conflicts with what the other says. Add to that medical journal articles with studies on the percentages of children with this condition who end up needing some additional help during the grade school years, and I have more anxiety than I know what to do with.

Still I run, so far every day and I keep the schedule. My mind is certainly not at ease though, and my runs are less about giving me time to explore my own thoughts and more about dissecting and interpreting the situation we are dealing with, and wondering whether or not our insurance will cover the costs (sometimes they do and sometimes they don't) associated with it.

Life does go on, and our son of course is perfect in our eyes. His personality is much like our daughter's when she was little, always smiling and craving interraction. My family and my wife encourage me to think positively, and they are right. Still, when parents are considering the medical options for their own, the responsibility of knowing the good and possibly bad outcomes is theirs, and with that responsibility comes sifting through some bad news along with the good.

This entry doesn't have much to do with Lydiard, but I am reminded of a kind of funny section in his book, where one of his athletes had a bad result and was being quite hard on himself. Lydiard talks about getting this fellow to go out with a woman on the team for drinks and some dancing, to make him forget about his performance that day and to keep him from dwelling on the past. Apparently this did the trick for this particular fellow, as Arthur said "I didn't have any trouble with him after that." I plan on avoiding cleaning the garage or suffering in the yard this weekend, instead taking more time with Kiera and the kids. Haiden and I plan to get a kite and fly it (like in one of her books), and Finn will no doubt be suffering tummy-time with Dad alongside. Probably no drinks and dancing with Kiera, but maybe we can catch up on a few TIVO'd "Daily Shows". Have a good weekend.

Training: 16 miles, 1:53:42, 7:08 pace. Ran 6 by myself, then 10 with the "Get Moving" group. More hills than I needed, felt like I was crawling in the middle.

Friday, October 21, 2005

No need for numbers

I've written on "numbers" in training programs before. They are comforting, and to some degree they serve as a concrete signpost from which to plot our course of navigation. A few days back in my What the Lydiard Method is...and isn't post I wrote about my realization that the schedules I've been following are merely guidelines, or a starting point. Nobby Hashizume, when asked why Lydiard even bothered with printing schedules if he didn't expect people to follow them religiously has basically said that coaches have to put schedules in their books, it's what everyone wants. Nobby furthered his point to perfection in the infamous Lydiard/Daniels thread on Letsrun.com with this comment-

One of the problems is that people look at numbers waaaaaaaaay too much. Forget 100 miles; forget 10 weeks; forget 4 or 6 weeks (hill); forget 20X400 or 18X400 or whatever. Lydiard laid out numbers for general audience as a guide. We still have to use what we've got between our ears. Lorraine (Moller) and I have been working on Part II of the Lydiard presentation; "Applicaton of the Lydiard Program". In it, we termed "Bare Bone of the Lydiard System"; which is basically the principle of the program without numbers. Think of what we need to develop first, second, third and so on. Think of how we can achieve it, not by number, but by "reasons". Once you understand that, applying the Lydiard program to the US high school/college system is no problem.

If you're following my blog, you are probably as excited as I am to hear about all the work Nobby, Lorraine and others are putting together for the Lydiard Foundation and Five Circles. It sounds like they are putting together a great presentation, and the website will become our "one-stop Lydiard shop". Of all the training systems I have read about, I think Lydiard's is the most often misinterpreted, so their work will go a long way towards reversing that trend.

I'm still following the schedule from "Running to the Top" pretty closely at this point, but I am doing slightly longer runs in-between the hill days because I'm used to it from the conditioning phase. Thomas was surprised I characterized yesterday's 18 miler as a "recovery" run, and he might be right. Still, if I'm running about 95 miles this week, and 18 mile run is just a little over 18% of my mileage, and the intensity is definitely lower than the three hill circuits (though Nobby and Glenn have mentioned I should perhaps be a little less focused on pace). I like having two days with over 2 hours of running, it makes the 80-90 minute hill days seem a little less imposing. Strange logic, I must admit.

Training: 10 miles, 1:24:49, 8:29 pace. 4 hill circuits at about 13 minutes each, all with 3 windsprints, followed by a nice morning at the park with Haiden. Almost fell asleep on a park bench as Finn woke me up for a feeding at 3:45am!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Getting it done...early

Two medical appointments for 4-month-old Finn today, which meant a 4:10 wake up call for the day's 18 miler in order to be home by 7 (in time to go). Today was the first crisp fall morning in Tucson, and as I ran down into the Rillito riverbed I could actually see my breath, which hasn't happened since March. The "rivers" in town are dry about 11 1/2 months of the year, so we've taken to calling them "washes", since most of the water that occasionally fills them is "washed" into them from the streets and foothills north of town after a serious rain. There is a nice 10 mile path along both edges of the river, one side is crushed granite and the other is asphalt. Here the early-morning walkers saunter along while their dogs run in the riverbed below, chasing rabbits and sometimes encountering the many coyotes passing through. It's 6 miles down to the path from the house, so today I ran a total of 6 along the bank and in the bed.

It was a tough morning, just like last Thursday. After 22 miles on Tuesday and a tough 10 mile hill session of Wednesday, Thursday's 18 miles is easily the hardest of the week. Still, I worked through a rough patch from 10-15 miles to finish pretty strong with a final mile at marathon pace. These "rough patches" come around a little more frequently now that hills have been added to the mix, and while I'm suffering through one I remember Nobby Hashizume's advice about the hill phase, "Idealy, the effort should ease now". I'm trying to take his words to heart, but it's hard to ease off the pace and let the times come to me while simultaneously trying to keep up a strong aerobic base. I try to keep in mind the reason for every workout, and recovery is as valid a reason or goal for a workout as any. I just wish it was easier for me to take my own advice.

Training: 18 miles, 2:04:44, 6:56 pace. A little strained in the middle, but finished strong.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The hills are alive...


No, those aren't my legs, but Haiden loves Dad's work shoes (what can I say, Tucson is a casual town). Back to the hills for week two of four for my Lydiard Hill Phase, and I'm starting to get into the groove of it. It's 2.25 miles there, then a circuit up the hill, down, three windsprints at the base (all slightly downhill, about 60 steps so somewhere over 100 meters but under 200 meters), then back to the base. I do this four times, and each circuit takes me about 13 minutes. Then it's another 2.25 miles back home, giving me 10 miles for the day. Ah, how I love a routine.

I got some good advice from R.R.C.A. coach Glenn McCarthy, who acted as Arthur Lydiard's translator when he was training coaches in Venezuela back in 1973. Glenn uses a Lydiard-focused approach to coach a masters group in Boulder, Colorado, and has also had some good influence on some of the high school runners there. Here's a nice article where Glenn talks about his approach to helping coach Brad Harkrader, from Thornton High School in Colorado, improve by slowly increasing his base mileage and bringing him to a peak at the right time through the right balance of aerobic work and intensity.

Glenn's opinions on the hill phase are rooted in what Lydiard described to the Venezuelan coaches in 1973. He says that the muscles used in steep hill running exercises fatigue and basically shut down at about 3 minutes, and then need about equal time to recover. I noted that my "up" time on my hill circuit was close to 5 minutes, and I was definitely dragging and losing knee drop and form by the end. Since I was still pretty tired from yesterday's 22 miler, taking his advice of working for a shorter duration on the uphill was easy today. I shortened my hips-forward, knees up, back-leg fully extended drills on the uphills to a little over 3 minutes, then instead of heading straight down the hill, I kept running (slowly) up to the top (it evens out a bit so I'm still able to recover) before heading down. This hopefully keeps my muscles from going right from the uphill shock to the downhill eccentric contractions, which should allow them to recover (Nobby says the same thing, to recover for 800 before heading back down).

With a shorter work interval I was able to get my knees up higher, and hopefully I'm getting more out of the exercises by focusing on better form coupled made possible with the shorter duration. It's a lot to work through, but with people like Nobby and Glenn offering great interpretations of Lydiard's methods, I feel like I'm going in the right direction (up, of course!!)

Training: 10 miles with 4 hill circuits, pretty slow

Monday, October 17, 2005

What the Lydiard Method is...and isn't

On page 12 in Lydiard's "Running to the Top" Lydiard says he often tells young people, "Look, last year, you ran the best race of your career. Everything went right and you performed at your very best. Now, if you know why that happened and you put your training plan together properly to reproduce that peak performance again on the day of the first race you want to win this season, then I would say you know something about training. Until you can do that, you don't know a damn thing about it. You are just a good athlete who, one day, without realizing why it is happening, will run a good race."

I've had some good races, and some bad ones, same as almost everyone. Of my five marathons, I only feel like I executed two correctly, even though my preparations were fairly similar through four of them. Looking back over my logs, there are certainly clues and footprints, weeks when I commented on how bad I felt, or sometimes days when things really clicked. I can't tell you why in most cases, and I realize I'm that (not so) young person Lydiard is lecturing.

I thought when I started this that I would be doing great if I could just follow the numbers and times stated in the marathon schedule in "Running to the Top" or the Introduction to the Lydiard System link I posted on the right. That's what I'd done with Pete Pfitzinger's plan and others before it.

But a funny thing happened along the way. The person (Arthur Lydiard) who invented the plan, and those like Nobby Hashizume, who worked with Lydiard for 25 years, and still others who were either coached or infuenced by the plan started saying the same thing- the schedule is only a starting point, it's only numbers.

I've mentioned my reliance on numbers as indicators of my condition before, and I guess I when I first started with Lydiard I thought "If I put X amount of effort in, times Y in miles, plus Z in duration, it would equal a sub-2:40 marathon. I'm not the only one who has this misconception. In the famous Lydiard/Daniels Letsrun thread Nobby is asked about what is and isn't the Lydiard Method. His response:

What People Say the Lydiard Method Is:
* Running 100 miles a week
* Dividing the season into blocks
* Special hill training (Hill Circuit)
* Pogo-stick-jump-like sprint drills for distance runners
* Unique shoe-lacing system
* Actually, it is all of the above

What the Lydiard Method is NOT:
* Long Slow Distance (LSD) and no speed
* Quick and easy fix
* Magic formula
* Short-cut to the top
* One-thing-fits-all program – you have to understand the principle and apply to yourself
* “5 ways to break the world record in a month” – it does not exist!

What is the Lydiard Method?
* Perfect combination of Aerobic and Anaerobic training and to arrange all elements of training in a balanced way so you can peak on the day that requires.
* To develop sufficient stamina to maintain necessary speed over the racing distance.
_______________________________________________

The last two sentences say it all, and Nobby's description of what the Lydiard Method is not is just as telling. I'm certainly not on my way towards a degree in physiology, but I am starting to take a more active role in trying to figure out the "why's" and "how's" of the different phases of the Lydiard Method.

So it's not a plug-and -play program, but that's good news-especially to those who want to try the Lydiard Method but are scared off by the numbers. Lets face it, for many of us 100 mile weeks are not in the cards, either by desire or design. Lydiard, through his own trial-and-error found that figure optimal for his "boys", but some people do much more while others get by on much less. The Running Times article on Lorraine Moller and her coaching shows one of her athletes making remarkable strides on less mileage. So if you're thinking of trying the Lydiard Method, be prepared to do a little homework. Like most good things, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.

Training: 22 miles, 2:30:32, 6:51 pace, very tough one today after too much yardwork yesterday. I need to have more respect for what the hill-work is taking out of me. Ran the first half at an ambitious 6:46 pace, so I faded pretty bad. Next time I'll start slower (and go back to 2 gels instead of 1).

Muffin Run


One down-side to Lydiard's hill phase is that I'm left with only one "easy" day, where I'm not running fairly long or doing hill circuits. During the Conditioning phase, I had 4 days where I was running 12 or fewer miles. I could break any of these days into two loops, and bring my 3-year-old daughter Haiden along with me in the jogging stroller. Now that I'm down to just one day of this, I'm trying hard to bring Haiden with (since she often asks). Running with "H" has only one caveat- a muffin.

As with any trip with kids, there are detours. What was supposed to be a "one-time-thing", or a "special treat" is now mandatory, and that's ok with me. Today we ran 8 miles together, usually it's just 6. With precisely 1.7 miles to go we stop at the Bashas', where they bake mondo chocolate muffins daily. Each time we stop I try to talk her into a different flavor. "How about blueberry this time?" "No, I want chocolate." "What about cranberry? Mommy likes cranberry" (we bring half home). "No, how about CHOCOLATE?" It usually ends there, and today she told the woman at the counter "I'm going for a run with my Daddy", and "I have a baby brother". We sit down, talk about what's going on for the day (she gets to go to the zoo with my wife's Mom's group). I stay home with 4-month old Finn today and hopefully get to overseed the ryegrass for the tiny lawn out back.

Pretty pedestrian, I know, but these are Mondays around here (I work Saturdays so it's the second day of my weekend). There are "champions everywhere", and sometimes when I'm grinding out my long run or struggling through my last hill-repeat I start to feel like one. Some days though, I'm just a Dad going for a run with his daughter, de-thatching the lawn, and holding up his baby son while he drools on my shirt. There's no reason I can't be both.

Training: 8 miles, 1:02:32, 7:48 pace with Haiden in the jogging-stroller.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Of Milage and Mileage

Today's post is an apology. For the benefit of the three people who actually read my Lydiard blog, I have changed every misspelled "milage" with the correct "mileage". It was harder to do than today's hill circuits, really. I think I use "mileage" in about every third sentence.

A good day today for running in Tucson, nice and overcast with cool morning temperatures in the 60's. I broke up my usual hill circuit by running up into Sabino Canyon, doing two circuits at the top of the road, then running down to Sabino Mountain for one more circuit. It was a nice way to finish my first of 4 weeks of hill work.

Training: 12 miles, 1:39:32, 8:17 pace. A rolling 4 mile uphill, plus three 5 minute hill repeats. Went easy on the strides today, as my calves need an extra day to recover.
Weekly total: 98 miles in 7 sessions

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The "Quicken"ing, or "There is a Cost"

Numbers don't lie. We turn ourselves inside-out scratching and clawing to get the digits we are looking for in the form of a new personal best. We stare at the numbers in the race results, and then hopefully admire the concrete proof of our fitness they represent.

I've been looking at some other numbers lately though, and the digits aren't comforting. In fact, they are downright scary. That's right, I'm talking Quicken here. We started tracking our finances through this programming marvel about three years ago, when I was still heavy into bike racing but thankfully done with triathlons. Every expense we incur is recorded via a logbook, and each expense is tied to a category. Back then cycling was one of the categories with a pretty high total. We download our bank's records and Quicken reconciles it all.

It's a fantastic program, and it spares us from scrutinizing every transaction on our printed bank statement. We even set up a budget, and Quicken can tell us each month where we spent too much, and which categories are leading us down the road to financial ruin.

Enter "Mike's Running" category. I sent off a check for December's half marathon today, and another $95 is about to fly out of my wallet for the January marathon. For kicks I did a "category detail" report on my running, and the results are shocking. I can't type the total for the year to date, because frankly it's too painful. Suffice it to say, I've spent $39 on running per WEEK this year so far.

Here's where the excuses start. The San Diego marathon plane ticket and hotel, plus meals are there, and usually I just race in town. I really needed to replace my socks this year. I had to see the podiatrist, it was a life-or-death situation. I'm finally fast enough for a singlet. I'm too hairy to run shirtless, I just can't do that to the other runners, so more technical tees please.

When I break it down it's frightening: 8 pairs of shoes (I get 400-450 miles out of them), about 8 pairs of socks, 3-4 pairs of $20 spenco insoles, 8 race entries, maybe 10 sticks of bodyglide, 5 pairs of shorts, 4 technical tees and 1 singlet, Running Times/Runner's World subscriptions, iPod shuffle (sits in a drawer), and two boxes of GU gel (espresso love, best flavor ever and double-caffeine).

So much for running as a minimalist sport. Because of the costs associated with my "habit", I haven't replaced my car's stolen stereo ($100? That's a pair of shoes plus insoles!), our television is a 19" model my parents bought me 10 years ago, and my car celebrated its 10th anniversary. None of those things are very important to me, though I miss N.P.R. on my way to work.

Running isn't cheap, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. The people I've met (especially since starting with the Lydiard Method), the confidence I've gained, and my improved outlook on life are just a few of the things running has given me. It's worth $39 a week, and it beats a car payment.

Training: 16 miles, 1:56:29, 7:16 pace, with the Get Moving group

Friday, October 14, 2005

Running vs. Training

Somewhere around week 8 of my Lydiard conditioning phase I found "the love" for running. Sure, it helped that I was finally getting 100 mile weeks under my belt, and that my times were coming down, but this was something else. I really started looking forward to each session, the ritual that preceeds it each morning, and the way I feel when I finish and walk back into the house to see the family. Somewhere along the line "training" had become just "running" and "workout" became "going for a run".

Today it was back to just plain-old "training". Recently the kids have been getting up way too early (4:30-5:30 for 4-month-old Finn, and 5:30 or so for 3-year-old daughter Haiden), and my wife has been taking the brunt of it since I'm usually out on my run. We've started a new system where on my shorter (1.5 hrs or less) days I get up with the kids and get them going, and she sleeps until 7 or so. It gets much harder for me to leave the house once they're up, especially Haiden, since we enjoy reading, playing, or doing breakfast stuff together. Once you start interracting, it's hard to peel off and say, "See ya, I'll be back in 90 minutes!". Today it was especially hard, since Haiden really wanted to come with me. Usually I would relent and bring her out in the jog-stroller for 6 or so, then drop her back at the house and finish my run without her. This hill phase complicates things though, since I can barely drag my own butt up the hills. She just can't come on these runs, and today it broke her heart. She was crying when I left, and of course I felt horrible for leaving (even though my wife was going to take both the kids out for her jog in the double-stroller momentarily). I thought about the balancing act with family required to really train with a goal in mind (a January marathon for me), and how it's impossible to get it just right.

The wind was brutal today, which didn't help. As I started up the first hill repeat, I was getting bashed on the head by whipping mesquite tree branches, and since I was running later more cars were whipping by on their way to their million dollar homes above me. My calves were aching a bit, and I seemed to be going in slow-motion (which I guess is the point in steep-hill running but this was ridiculous!). All the while I was thinking about leaving behind my sobbing daughter, and right there the "run" became "training" again. A means to an end instead of the wonderful escape the sport usually provides me. I plodded on, 4 times up and down plus some strides at the base as rush hour ensued just across the road's shoulder.

I did the work, and came back to find my daughter covered with jam from her toast, sitting at her miniature ladybug table. "You want some special running drink?", she said. I sat down and had some waffles (she ate most of them), then things were back to normal. Hopefully I'll get back to "running" tomorrow.

Training: 10 miles, 1:29:15, 8:55 pace, 4 hill circuits plus strides

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Get out of the bucket!

Ah, that was my mantra today on my 18 miler that was definitely 3 miles too long. I cycled quite a bit before I turned exclusively to running, and my shorter-than-average legs coupled with my longer-than-average arms and torso made me ride in a posture that was...well, peculiar comes to mind. I sort of slid my butt way back on the saddle and rode with a very relaxed seat-tube angle, pushing more with my glutes (back when I had them) and hamstrings and less with my quads. When I get tired I run like this, and Lydiard calls it "Running like you're sitting in a bucket". When I start to tire, and tire is putting it a little mildly today, I tend to start literally "dragging my butt", where your back straightens out, your hips lower, and you almost look like you're about to sit down with each step, shuffling with bent legs. When I start to do this I tell myself two things; "Get out of the bucket", and then something I read that Deena Kastor's husband tells her just before she starts an interval in a Running Times article, something like "chin level, head back, everything forward". Those words help me rotate my pelvis just a tad forward and lean my upper body just a little bit, which makes me lift my knees up (if I don't want to fall over). It also helps me come down a little more on my mid-foot and less on my heels. Driving with the knees hopefully gets me to straighten my rear leg on take-off. Oops, one thing at a time, remember yesterday.

Oh yeah, how could I forget yesterday's first hill effort? My calf muscles are tight-rope taut (they're thinning out though so maybe I should say "banjo string tight"), and my quads are feeling a little "thick". The muscles protest when I'm standing still, but they let me run without pain so I figure I'll make it through. It was the dreaded "bucket march" today, I just couldn't get my knees up and couldn't get any power into my strides. I ignored the watch and just had at it, trying to enjoy the cold, dark morning and the solitude it offers.

Lydiard says "Train don't strain", but new stimulus always produces some rebellion in my body. Hopefully I can get in at least 4 hill circuits tomorrow, along with the prescribed sets of windsprints. I'm hoping to keep my mileage within 10% of what I've done for the conditioning phase, so it's definitely more of a workload when I factor in all the "ups" of the hills. Tomorrow I send in all my winter race registrations (I updated my upcoming races in the sidebar), so there will be no turning back.

Training: 18 miles, 2:10:55, 7:16 pace, ass-dragging march but a nice day for it

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

False starts, and "Am I doing this right?"

I spent one ill-fated year playing golf on my high school's team (luckily I migrated to cross-country the following season), where I was barraged with unsolicited "tips" to improve my struggling swing. I soon learned that trying to think about doing 20 different things at once (all in the three seconds it takes to swing a club) was futile. I had much more luck thinking hard about one element with each swing, as I slowly tried to put all the concepts together over an hour on the driving range.

As I poured over my copy of "Running to the Top" and Nobby's gracious notes on hill training last night, there was quite a bit of information to digest. I decided to take the same approach as I did with golf and focus on one element at a time. Lydiard describes three types of hill training; steep hill running, hill bounding, and hill springing. He suggests starting with steep hill running, then progressing to bounding and eventually springing as your condition improves.

I was set to tackle steep hill running and maybe some bounding. For the first, I was going to think about two things-
-Running slowly and taking short steps(to add resistance and avoid getting into an anaerobic state)
-exaggerate and maintain high knee-lift (hill running is meant to make it easier to maintain knee-lift more constant through a race)

For bounding, I was going to think about-
-back leg extension (getting my back leg straight at take-off to get "power and stride", and avoid running like I'm "sitting in a bucket"
-taking longer strides (like a triple-jumper)

There's much more to each, but I figured better to simplify for now and save springing for when I'm in better condition. So after a nice two mile warm-up I came to my chosen picturesque dirt hill in the folds of beautiful Sabino Canyon. After jogging down to the base, I started up. Half-way up the problem was apparent, this "hill" was really more of a gentle rise, and I just couldn't seem to get much resistance at all regardless of how slow I plodded along. "Am I doing this right?", I said to no one. Thinking maybe I was just a little too fresh after an easy day, I headed back to the base and tried again. Same deal, it was like doing high-knees on an almost level plane. I switched my handy GPS watch to measure "grade", and this "hill" topped out at about 3%. Kind of sad, since it was such a pretty place for a workout.

So off to the fail-safe, in this case Sabino Mountain road. My car had trouble on this one when I measured it on the odometer two days ago, so even though it was a last resort it was the only place close enough at about 6 miles into the day. The road is almost comically upright, averaging between 6-10% as it ascends about 4/10ths of a mile to some elite gated subdivisions perched high above the city. I hit the "lap" button and started up.

For those of you with kids, it was like waking up from a nap cross-eyed and nearly asphyxiated, looking up to find a three-year-old sitting on your chest. My heart was almost immediately in my throat, and I slowed down immediately. Next the quadriceps started a slow but insistent burn, and I knew I was starting to "get it". It took five minutes to ascend the .4 mile stretch, and I tried to think about one thing at a time, mostly keeping my knees up, going slowly (no choice here), and keeping my arm swing straight. I tried a few bounds, but I could only manage them when the road's grade lessened in a few spots. Make no mistake, bounding is very difficult (at least it is for me). I took it very easy on the way down, it was too steep for fast striding.

At the bottom I did a few of the prescribed "wind-sprints" on the rolling access road, mostly striders for about 100 meters. When I recovered I did two more of the circuits, which ended up being about 1.25 miles apiece. I was tired and my knees started to drop on the third, but I muscled through it and jogged back home for a total of 10 miles. I figure I was going up the hill for about 20 minutes total including my first two false starts, and remembering Nobby's words of "easing into it" I figure I'll work up to 4 or five circuits, and I'll probably increase the recovery time and distance to make the circuit closer to two miles if I can find the terrain.

All in all not a bad day, though I am definitely not doing the evening group run tonight ("common sense" as Nobby might say).

Training: 10 miles, with about 20 minutes of going uphill. 8:47 pace overall

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

If anyone out there needs some motivation...


I've been saving this post for the start of my hill phase, because just writing this gives me such a motivational boost. If there was any doubt in my mind that the Lydiard method of training was worth a try it was erased by this fantastic article that appears in the October issue of Running Times. If you're still reading, I urge you to click the link to the article, go for a run, then read the rest of this. I also added it to the sidebar links.

Lorraine Moller, born in New Zealand, made her marathon debut in 1979 and won her first eight races at the distance. She raced in the first four olympic marathons for women, beginning in 1984. She coaches a group of runners in Boulder, Colorado she dubs the "Wings of Mercury" with a motivational focus that gives me shivers.

Moller's success and her coaching methods are deeply rooted in Arthur Lydiard's philosophy that "everything is important", that is training all the body's systems, including the mind. In the article she says, "Your speed is only as good as your endurance". She emphasizes building a large aerobic base before beginning anaerobic training, and employs hill training before moving to anaerobic work. She mentions that doing interval training too early is "like putting fast wheels on a Volkswagon. Youi're better off with slow tires on a Mercedes. With the Lydiard system you can have both."

My favorite part of the article is Moller's description of the success she believes is possible for her athletes, once they do the work and open their minds to break down the mental barriers of what is and is not possible. She says of the system, "When you see runners take minutes off their time, learn to take the brakes off and pace themselves, when (they) achieve results, more than they could have hoped for, they're forever changed. That's an empowering experience. We are all affected." She also talks about dealing with injuries and setbacks, things all runners eventually come face to face with, and her views are encouraging. "Once you've done a lot of running, you can tap into it. The body is a memory bank where records of our entire lives are stored."

Since first investigating the Lydiard method and reading "Running to the Top", I've read and/or communicated with many great people with knowledge of his methods. It's hard to explain, but instead of just re-examining my training, I find myself thinking about other areas of my life as well.

Training: 8 miles, extremely easy after yesterday's effort and tomorrow's hills

Monday, October 10, 2005

"Be patient...the times will come down"

One problem I have with the internet is sourcing. As I search and find articles and quotes by and about Arthur Lydiard, I don't do a good enough job of keeping track of who said what. I think the quote I use for the title of this post comes from Arthur directly, but it might be from Nobby. The words refer to dealing with some of the inevitable frustrations that come along with following any training program. For most non-elites like me, chasing time becomes a preoccupation. We want a personal best, we want to go over our set distances in less time, every time.

Today marks the first day of my hill phase, but the week started with another long run. I thought about how well last week's run went, and keeping a 6:46 pace was definitely in my head. Things started out well, I bought some new shoes last week so there was literally more spring in my stride, and after 4 miles I was already down to a 7 minute pace. At the 11 mile turnaround I was at 6:45, but I was definitely feeling a little worse than the previous week (being about 10 seconds under last week's pace for the first half probably contributed to this). With this in mind, I turned my Garmin watch away from me and decided to do the second half strictly by feel, knowing that three hill workouts this week will no doubt leave me hurting.

On the way back I started feeling a little better, and at about 18 miles I started thinking about another Lydiard quote in an interview where he talks about running long runs by time instead of distance. He began to favor minutes over miles when he noticed that runners who took closer to 3 hours to do 22 miles were getting more of an aerobic benefit than his elite runners who were running 22 miles in closer to two hours simply because they were out there on their feet longer. Lydiard also prescribed running by time to build mileage, because inevitably his runners would go a little farther each week in the same time, so they were building miles almost without realizing it.

Doing my long runs alone gives me time to think about things like this, whereas I'm forced to talk about the Red Sox or Supreme Court Justice nominees if I run with my lawyer friend Scott. Anyway, as I thought more about running by time, I realized that at my faster pace 22 miles was taking me about 2 hours and 28 minutes, which was ending my run some ten or more minutes faster than in previous weeks. With about 3/4 of a mile left, where I usually make a right and head into our monster subdivision, something strange happened...I skipped the turn. I decided to make it an even 24, running up into the hills a bit and past some of the nicer homes by Sabino Canyon. When I looped around and made it back home I couldn't believe my watch-24 miles in just under 2 hours and 41 minutes, a 6:42 pace and my fastest long training run ever.

The times have come down, Arthur was right about that. It was great to have a good day before this Wednesday, when I'll be staring up the face of a 1/2 mile dirt hill in Sabino Canyon. I hope Arhur is right about the next four weeks too.

One more note: Yvonne from New York, who writes the Personal Record blog in my sidebar ran an 8 minute best of 3hr30 minutes in Chicago this weekend, and I want to congratulate her on a race well run. She has a mileage chart up with her miles for her 3 marathons-guess which race had the most training miles? Visit her site to hear all about it.

Training: Sunday, 8 miles easy, with several hills, 1:01:30, 7:39 pace
Total miles for week 12 of conditioning: 104 in 8 sessions
Monday, 24 miles, 2:40:43, 6:42 pace, magic day

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Going out with a bang...

Last hard workout of the conditioning phase was today, and I'm pleased to report I was "that guy" today. You know, the jerk at the workout who never seems to get tired while everyone else is feeling miserable.

Arthur Lydiard wrote about the conditioning phase as a means bring his athletes to a "virtually tireless state", where their aerobic system was so well-developed that they could simply run away from their competitors as they incurred increased oxygen debt during a race. His athletes raised their aerobic ceilings and their cardiac efficiency to such a high level that race pace for them was less of a percentage over their threshold than their competitors.

I've been thinking about this "virtually tireless state", and while it sounds good, after almost 12 weeks of conditioning training I didn't really feel like I was getting there. I definitely notice more endurance on my longer runs, where even if I start to bonk I can shuffle it in at 7:30 or so (Lydiard would probably say I'd gone out too fast and he'd be right), but I haven't really felt like I could just go on forever once I drop the pace to 80% or more of my threshold.

Today, much to the chagrin of my company, I felt it, and it was great. I meet a pretty fast group of runners for 10 miles along a river path on Saturdays, and since I needed 16 miles today I ran 6 before I met them as a warm-up. I had announced my intentions for the run in the previous weeks, and we decided we would all do my workout-5 miles out easy, then 4 miles of tempo at 6:10, 6:00, 6:00, and 5:50, followed by a mile cool-down.

As we started the tempo work everything just seemed to come together, with the 6:10 mile flying by right on pace (I'm using the Garmin GPS for road intervals, and I think it's pretty close). As we dropped to 6 I was still trying to talk training with one of the runners who was a coach, but he started to get mad because he could hardly breathe at that pace. At two miles the runners started falling off the pace, either blowing up or drifting back. At three miles it was just me and one other runner I hadn't met before, and we ran the last mile in at 5:48. We chatted about running and racing as we plodded the last cool-down mile, but in my head the "tireless state" phrase was echoing.

This was a great day, and with just one more easy 10 miler tomorrow it will mark the end of my first Lydiard conditioning phase. It was really great to finish with a good week, and this run and Tuesday's 22 miler make me think I'm finally getting somewhere. Have a great weekend.

Training: 16 miles, with 4 miles of tempo at 6:09, 5:59, 5:58, 5:48

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Too much of a good thing

The Wednesday night social run- I have no desperate need for it, but since I really have no friends it's fun to go down to The Running Shop after work for a quick 6-8 miles with a nice group of people. The employees are actual runners, and most of them are faster than me. After having to put up with my monthly visits, where I try on 6 different pairs of shoes in an effort to get out of my stability trainers, it's nice to just talk to them runner to runner instead of patron to employee. Still, this time I should have skipped the whole thing.

I wrote with relish about my 22 miler in Tuesday's post, and I knew I had to do my 18 miler (which I hoped to run fairly quickly) just two days later. What should have followed was an easy 10 miles or so, which I did Wednesday morning. Showing up and running 6 more that evening at 7:22 pace was not part of the plan. I really didn't think it would do me any harm, but it did. Following the run, I stayed out to eat a burrito with some of the guys. It was about as long as my forearm and easily twice as thick.

Thursday morning at 4:30 a.m. found me deep in the fog of sleep, the kind where I can hear the alarm on my watch going off, but I don't recognize the sound as something I need to pay attention to. Luckily I was meeting Scott for part of the 18 miles so I couldn't sleep in. He was hurting too, after his 4 mile "tempo" run with The Workout Group turned into a VO2 max workout when the promised 6 minute pace descended into the 5:40's. Too many young fast guys there, this is why I do most of my quality work alone.

We loped along at about 7:20 pace, neither fast nor slow, and when he peeled off at mile 14 I was supposed to start my "quality work", where I hoped to drop down to 6:30 pace or so to finish the run. Not to be on this day, as I still felt every step of the previous evening's 6 miles, which was mostly on concrete and bricks around the university. I simply struggled to finish, well beyond the "pleasantly tired" state Lydiard suggests and that I had hoped to achieve.

Where does a runner draw the line, and how much is too much? Sadly, it's only been an easy distinction for me after the fact. I shouldn't have done the double the day after a 22 miler and the day before an 18 miler, I should have just recovered with my morning run. So I lose a day of "quality", life goes on, lesson learned (I hope).

I'm hoping to do some tempo on tomorrows 16 miler, so I took it easy today and searched out some more hills for the hill phase next week. During the run I thought about what lies ahead, and I admit I'm a bit nervous about the four weeks of hill training. I plan to revisit that section in Lydiard's "Running to the Top", and to go over more of what Nobby has passed along to me. Stay tuned.

Training: 12 miles, 7:26 pace. Ran through some very rich, very hilly neighborhoods. Said hi to the walkers I saw, even their dogs looked wealthy.

Just where is all this heading?

The marathon. I just can't figure it out, and that just kills me. Those damn "race equivalency table" sites, as well as Jack Daniel's books tell me that a 1:15 half-marathon (I've done a 1:16 too so it wasn't a fluke) guy should be able to crack 2:40 in the marathon. I tell Kiera that I can quit if I break 2:40, but she knows I'm lying. After I ran my 2:47, a wise, old elite marathoner I respect a great deal (he ran in Shorter's days, and he's now the head of internal medicine at a hospital here) sent me an email I still can't erase. "Once you reach 2:40, times drop much faster". I think about that often.

I'm using the Lydiard Method to ready myself for the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n Roll Marathon on January 15, 2006. I have a score to settle with this course, after running the first half at 2:40 pace and finishing with a 2:56 (yes, it was quite ugly, wish I had pictures). As I was climbing the hill at mile 18, I said to one group of spectators "Does this hill ever end?!?"

So the drill is 12 weeks of conditioning, the benefits of which should be increased aerobic efficiency and endurance. Next comes a four week hill-phase, where I'll be doing 3 hill workouts a week, plus my 22 miler and hopefully two more pretty long mid-week runs. After that comes four weeks of anaerobic speedwork, which should be quite a shock to the system. Following that is four weeks of coordination training, which will hopefully make it easier for my mind to let my body run fast. Two weeks of tapering and the actual race conclude the training.

I have four tune-up races planned, including a 10 miler at the end of October (tragically taking place in the middle of my hill phase, which is a no-no), the Phoenix New Times 10K on November 13, a 5K cross-country turkey trot (I'll let you guess when that is), and the Tucson half marathon the first weekend in December. I'm hoping for personal bests in the 10K and the half marathon, though my true focus is set on the marathon in January.

So that's the plan. What's the point in hearing about the journey if you don't know where it ends?

Training: 18 miles, 7:19 pace, half of it with Scott (a difficult run you will be bored with tomorrow)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Green Eggs & Ham and the Road Not Taken

As a Lydiard fan, I have a dirty little secret...I wouldn't suggest his training to everyone. There was a running life for me before I started my 12 weeks of Lydiard conditioning. I've run 5 marathons: a 3:11 in 2000, a 2:59 in '01, a 2:56 and a 2:47 in '04, and a 2:50 in June of 2005. For my 2:56 race and my breakthrough 2:47 I followed plans by Pete Pfitzinger , a noted two-time olypian, exercise physiologist, and 2:11 marathoner who writes a great column in Running Times magazine. First I tried his 12 week schedule that topped out at 55 miles per week and finished with the 2:56, then I took on his 18 week schedule that peaked with 70 miles per week for the 2:47. I tried Pete's 70-93 miles per week schedule and ended up losing a few minutes at my most recent marathon. I just couldn't keep the mileage up this last go-around, and I ended up missing some key workouts that I believe led to a sub-par performance. I also didn't come into my last preparation with enough base miles, which is something Pete emphasizes is neccessary before starting his plans (tempo runs start in the third week).

I think Pete Pfitzinger's plans are fundamentally sound, and his "Advanced Marathoning" book is very clear and easy to follow. When I get asked a question about choosing a marathon plan to follow, I'm caught between suggesting Pfitzinger for novices and Lydiard for those with more background. I also think about asking a question back. "Do you like green eggs and ham?"

Actually, that's not the question, but the query is in the book. When Sam I Am goes into the tunnel on the train with the finicky eater, he says "In the dark, here in the dark? Could you, would you in the dark?" That's the real question. Chances are, if you go with the Lydiard Method, you will be running in the dark, sometimes several times a week. Lydiard calls for three long runs a week, with at least one shorter day between each. With the 55 mile per week plan Pfitzinger suggests, you have one long run (which you can do on your day off and thus avoid getting up before dawn), and one mid-week medium long run that tops out at 15 and is usually shorter. Both plans require commitment and resolve, I think Lydiard's system takes more mental and physical energy, some of your own interpretation, and much resolve...and some very early runs if you have a life. Like Arthur says, I'm trusting his method to get "to the top", though I heartily respect Pfitzinger and other coaches like Jack Daniels.

So...could you, would you, in the dark?

Training: 10 miles easy, 7:43 pace, six of them with Haiden in the jog-stroller

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Just gimmee some proof!

It was one of those great days today, and I feel I must bore you with it, lest I forget. Going through my training log to get my mileage for the past 11 weeks for my last post got me thinking...specifically, thinking I should be running faster. One of the most inspiring adaptations that the body is supposed to go through during Lydiard's conditioning phase is that you will begin to run faster at the same percieved exertion level. Looking at my average paces for my long runs, I do see a pattern of this. What started at 7:45 has slowly lowered to 7:30, then 7:20. However, for the last few weeks I've been pretty static at 7:15 or so, and I've been looking for proof that what I've been putting myself through is working.

Why the level-off? I'm guessing my racing is probably to blame, since I was definitely more tired during the past two weeks. I thought I could get away with sneaking in a few anaerobic efforts, but I think I paid for them. But the racing is over for a few weeks, so I really didn't have any excuse for the lack of improvement.

Today started out just as most of my long runs, with my standard 4:30 breakfast and coffee, then out the door. It was nice and cool this morning, probably about 63 degrees or so (which is cool in Tucson this time of year). After easing into the first 3 miles, I started practicing going downhill faster as the road tilted down. I took the brakes off for a quarter mile descent, then checked my Garmin GPS (tech geek? Guilty) to see that I was averaging 7:11 for the run thus far, when I usually start out at 7:30 or slower. I decided there that this was the day to try for a quick run, a good strong aerobic effort. I was down to 7 flat by mile 6, then I kept the pressure on until my average pace hit 6:52 at my 11 mile turnaround. I kept my eye off the watch until mile 16, where I was right at 6:50. Up to this point I felt great. I could tell I was moving faster, but my breathing was still controlled and my effort felt pretty much the same as it has for the past few weeks.

Miles 16 to 20 are the best and worst part of my 22 miler. Four miles of rolling net uphill, which breaks my legs regardless of how good I feel. I never look at the watch until I get home once I'm to mile 16 to try to practice running by feel, so I ignored it and my legs as they started to tighten a bit. The last two miles home are a little downhill, and I was able to relax and cruise in fairly comfortably.

Perhaps the best part of this run was stopping. As 22 miles ticked over on my watch and I turned it off to walk into the driveway, the garbage truck rolled down my street, mercifully giving me enough time to drag our can full of potent diaper bombs to the curb. As I turned back towards the house, my wife opened the garage door while holding our little boy, and my daughter started jumping up and down beside them screaming, "Daddy, you came back from your run!!".

It was never in doubt I would, but I made it back ten minutes faster than I have since we moved in to the house in April.

Training: 22 miles in 2:28:50, 6:46 pace

Monday, October 03, 2005

100 MPW is hard...

That's what's been going through my head. This is the beginning of my 12th and final week of conditioning, so I thought I would spend it reflecting on my journey with Arthur Lydiard's training, and offering what small pearls of wisdom I've gained through my process thus far.

First, a short recap of my training with the Lydiard Method, which began July 18. My mileage in order from week 1-11:
83, 71, 61, 100, 101, 94, 78, 100, 96, 95, 100. August 4 is the only day I haven't run since starting this journey. Full disclosure, I've done three races during the conditioning phase. I mentioned previously that I've been trying to win a points series of 10 races for my club, and unfortunately two of these races happened during my conditioning phase. The third race was "just ego", according to a training partner. He might be right, but I was planning a tempo run and thought the race would present a good opportunity for me to have a good result. I feel guilty about betraying Lydiard's insistence on avoiding any anaerobic efforts during conditioning. This is a cardinal rule of his system, and it hindsight it might have pulled my conditioning down, made me risk injury, and made me too tired to enjoy the full benefits of his conditioning phase by forcing me to slow down the week after each race to recover.

My observations:
1. Running 100 miles in a week is hard, but it gets easier. In reading Lydiard's words I know I'm supposed to feel "pleasantly tired", but on more than a few of the mornings after an 18 or 22 miler, as I lay sprawled out on our kitchen tile or polluting the kiddie pool in the backyard with sweat, too exhausted to mix a glass of gatorade, "pleasant" didn't quite cut it as a descriptor. Lydiard would probably say I was running too fast, but some of these runs were at a very leisurely pace.

2. It gets easier. Really, it does. I learned to start slower, and finish stronger. Arthur advised runners to start out running by time, on out-and-back courses. If the way back took longer than the way out, they needed to slow down until that stopped happening. He describes that running by time allowed his runners to go out a little farther each time, as they got faster the mileage would increase. I started out going by time, but my craving to keep track of mileage took over quickly.

3. You will probably lose weight. I dropped more than eight pounds over 11 weeks without trying. Running well does make me choose better foods, though my wife's excellent baking probably kept me from losing more weight. Less weight is easier to move, which is good.

My suggestions:
Read my profile before continuing. I'm 34, wife and 2 kids, mediocre running guy, and these suggestions are geared towards busy, also-rans like me.

1. I started with several two-a-day runs, then eventually whittled it down to 100 miles per week in singles. Two-a-days helped me recover at first, but eventually the strain of being gone in the evenings as well as the mornings became too much for the family. Lydiard's boys did 100 miles in singles, then ran extra easy sessions most days that didn't count towards their 100+ mile weeks. I discuss this in my concessions post.

2. Run from your house (no, really). Many runners I know drive to their runs to find the perfect terrain or to meet up with one another. Time is of the essence to me, and that time (and gas) wasted going to and from a run can be better spent.

3. Get up earlier, go to bed earlier (I know, all my suggestions are time-savers). You will need more sleep. The best way I can find to stretch out the day is to start it earlier. My kids go to bed at 7:30, so I can get to bed at 8:30 and still be (relatively) rested getting up at 4:30a.m..

4. Run your weeks backwards (seriously). As my schedule progressed, I started doing a 22, 18, and 16 miler each week. Psychologically, I always found it difficult to finish off my week with my long run. If the week hadn't gone particularly well, I would dread the upcoming long run, and subsequently I would have trouble with it. Now I start my week with the 22 miler (on either Monday or Tuesday), do the 18 miler two days later, then the 16 miler two days after that. If all goes well, I finish the week with two shorter runs. When executed properly, it feels like I get to "coast" through the end of the week, and by the time another week starts I'm motivated for the next long run.

That's all the advice I feel qualified to give. My daughter is desperately trying to feed me a plastic bagel (I'm at home today), so I'd better sign off to give her some attention.

Training: Saturday, 10 miles, 7:09 pace
Sunday, 16 miles with Scott, 7:10 pace
Weekly total: 100 in seven sessions (finally all singles)

Today, 10 miles, 6 with Haiden in the jog-stroller, easy 7:47 pace